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Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939

Gender and Violence on Stage


Cathy Leeney

Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939 is the first book to examine the plays of five fascinating and creative women, placing their work for theatre in co-relation to suggest a parallel tradition that reframes the development of Irish theatre into the present day.
How these playwrights dramatize violence and its impacts in political, social, and personal life is a central concern of this book. Augusta Gregory, Eva Gore-Booth, Dorothy Macardle, Mary Manning, and Teresa Deevy re-model theatrical form, re-structuring action and narrative, and exploring closure as a way of disrupting audience expectation. Their plays create stage spaces and images that expose relationships of power and authority, and invite the audience to see the performance not as illusion, but as framed by the conventions and limits of theatrical representation.
Irish Women Playwrights 1900-1939 is suitable for courses in Irish theatre, women in theatre, gender and performance, dramaturgy, and Irish drama in the twentieth century as well as for those interested in women’s work in theatre and in Irish theatre in the twentieth century.


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Conclusion / 193


Conclusion There is a saying that women have always made spectacles of themselves. However, it has been only recently, and intermittently, that women have made spectacles themselves. On this difference turns the ambiguity of a feminist theatre.1 Women’s role in making theatre, whether as writers or performers, grows out of the dialectic between tradition and innovation; it is in this dialectic that the ambi- guity lies. Woman has been the icon, and not the icon-maker. When she becomes the creator of representations, then the woman playwright must negotiate the rep- resentational inheritance in relation to which she inevitably works. In ways that have been definitive, women have been made spectacles of in Irish theatre at the beginning of the twentieth century. Images of Ireland as a woman, of Kathleen Ni Houlihan or the great queens of legend as sovereignty figures, have skewed the representation of women in Irish theatre, short-circuiting women play- wrights’ interrogation of these tropes, and their negotiations with and resistance to cultural and theatrical tradition. The challenge for Irish women playwrights has been to map theatrical landscapes reflecting their perceptions and experiences, to create forms and images that counter the ‘tropes and traps’2 so robustly promoted by post-colonial cultural formation. The year 1900 marked significant developments for women in Irish theatre. From its foundation in that year, until it was absorbed into Cumann na mBan in 1914, Inghinidhe na hEireann occupied a central position in relation to Irish wom- en’s participation in the cultural renaissance, and was...

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